I don’t get the iPad, except as a Kindle and Nook killer. It doesn’t seem to me to offer more than a netbook or other tablets. Arguably it offers less, in a more closed and proprietary environment that has some back-end costs to it.

The iPhone felt to me like a hugely different product from its cellphone competitors. If you just compare it to the Kindle, I suppose the iPad is quite different. But the Kindle doesn’t pretend to be an almost-computer, and it doesn’t cost what an almost-computer would.

Now if Apple had concentrated instead on getting the cost of ebooks to where it ought to be, given the vastly lower overhead involved in producing them, that would be different. That was the trick of iTunes that made the iPod significantly different from its competitors at the time that it launched: it got the digital music market right. (Though with some nasty DRM embedded inside of that solution.) I don’t see that here with this product. The pricing and availability of ebooks seems a bit better than with the Kindle, but not dramatically so.

Maybe design aesthetics and reputation will win out again. But about the only thing I can see coming out of this rollout is that other ebook readers are in big trouble.

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8 Responses to Puzzlement

  1. jfruh says:

    I don’t have any more experience with the iPad than anyone else who’s seen it on the Internets, and I have my own doubts about its ultimate success, mostly because I’m not convinced a lot of people are going to spend $500 and up on a third thing halfway between a notebook and a smartphone. That said, though, I think a lot of folks (especially those who *like* tinkering with computer-y stuff) handwave away Apple’s intense focus on user interface interaction as “aesthetics.” You could argue that “aesthetics” was all that separated the iPhone from the genration of smartphones running Palm OS and Windows Mobile that it killed; the phone hardware wasn’t any thing special, and there wasn’t any specific bit of functionality that the iPhone had that the others lacked (and in many cases the reverse was true: the iPhone as originally introduced had big gaps). But the iPhone was incredibly easy and fun to use, and quickly revealed its competitors to be irritating buggy crap by comparison.

    Whether anyone needs the iPad, or whether its e-reader and e-book economy is good or bad, is an open question, but I wouldn’t call its slick UI “aesthetics” (and apologies if this isn’t what you were referring to with this word). Windows Tablet PCs flopped mostly because they just used a desktop OS that despite some tweaks was totally inappropriate for the form factor. If the iPad works, it will be because the design of the UI makes you want to use it.

  2. If the iPad ran Mac OS X, I’d be preordering one. It works with Apple’s Bluetooth wireless keyboard, and the combination of a 1.5-pound tablet with that keyboard would be great for archival research, classroom and conference presentations (design them on your Mac, show them with the iPad connected to a video projector), etc.

    But like you I’m troubled by the proprietary platform. Apple promises iPad versions of Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, but what I’d really want to do is run Bookends, DevonThink Pro, and OmniFocus. Only OmniFocus has an iPhone app, and it was designed with the iPhone screen size in mind, so it’s not really a replacement for the desktop version.

    I can understand that Apple needs to keep strict control over the applications that one can run on the iPhone, but I don’t see why the same restrictions should apply to a tablet computer.

  3. crystalpyramid says:

    I got a netbook last summer and discovered that the impact-resistant flash disk is no use if the hinges break when you drop it. This seems like a huge advantage of a tablet over a netbook. Also, there’re a lot of situations where the angles don’t work nearly as well to read a tiny screen (e.g. on your lap) as they would on a decent-sized laptop. So if Apple was going to do a netbook, it makes sense for them to solve these problems and make it a tablet.

    As for the proprietary software, I guess this is proof that they just don’t get it? If it weren’t for the proprietary software, I’d think it was a good value for the price, but with it, it’s pretty much unusable for my purposes.

  4. north says:

    I’m with Brian. If it ran OS X I’d be pre-ordering. What I want is a small, lightweight, easy to bike with tablet that does the following:

    – keeps my article PDFs with me, so I don’t have to make annoying print-outs to take to class
    – lets me take notes on those articles with a stylus
    – lets me buy electronic (searchable!) copies of textbooks and scholarly books
    – syncs with my reference manager
    – has handwriting recognition and note-taking capability so I can take class/presentation notes with a stylus and have them be searchable and automatically synced with my main computer; alternatively, has a camera so I can photograph the most important notes – this is kind of hard to do very well, so probably lowest on my list of important options
    – runs R
    – has decent web access
    – can carry around presentations I want to make
    – let me make minor edits to already-written work on the fly, or take typed notes (for me, this would mean MS Word, not Pages, most likely)

    so far, I think I can probably do 1, 3, and 4 on the kindle, could do 2, 6, and 7 on the iPhone (but not well – it’s a terrible way to read articles or look at most websites). It looks like the iPad will do all but run R, if I can adapt to Pages instead of Word. I hate carrying my laptop around because it hurts my shoulder. Having the iPhone now means I don’t have to travel with it for short trips when I don’t have work to do. the iPad (with R) would mean I didn’t have to bring a laptop to classes, or for short trips where I have some work to do. honestly, I think it’s great. and I don’t have a lot of disposable income, but if it ran OS X I’d come up with the money to pre-order.

  5. joe o says:

    I agree with jfruh. Apple has made an intentional decision to keep out functionality so that the device is fast and easy to use. People who use them really like them. I think they will sell well.

  6. Josh says:

    Now if Apple had concentrated instead on getting the cost of ebooks to where it ought to be, given the vastly lower overhead involved in producing them

    This has been coming up quite a lot over the past few days. The problem is, it’s not (from what I can tell) true. The physical costs involved in publishing are only a small percentage of the total costs. (Here’s one of the current discussions of this particular issue, starting in particular in the responses to this comment.)

  7. Dave B says:

    I am sure that they will sell well. However I am also frustrated that the iPad has probably killed the notebook replacement tablet PC. The iPad looks ok for consuming media but horrible for even something as simple as writing this response. With my tablet PC its as easy as writing on a pad of paper.

    North, how good is the taking notes (& handwriting recognition) on an iPhone with a stylus?

  8. mark0607 says:

    a little more than kindle and less than kind.

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